Horror Shelfie
This image has been out and about for a while now, as part of the Horror Writers Association "Horror Selfie" promotion.

For my own records, and the potential edification and amusement of my readers, I have decided to list the books that can be seen however dimly in the picture. They are all from the personal library assembled by David and myself, and the unifying theme will rapidly become clear.

Maria Alexander, At Louche Ends, Burning Effigy Press, 2011

K. J. Bishop, The Etched City, Prime Books, 2003

Poppy Z. Brite, Exquisite Corpse, Orion Books, 1996

"", Self Made Man, Orion Books, 1998

"", Lost Souls, Delacorte Press, 1992

"", Swamp Fetus, Penguin Books, 1994

Emily Bronte, Wuthering Heights, Pan Books, 1967 (1847)

Edwina Grey, Prismatic, Lothian, 2006

Barbara Hambly, Immortal Blood, Unwin Paperbacks, 1988

"", Travelling With The Dead, Voyager, 1995

Narelle Harris, The Opposite of Life, Pulp Fiction Press, 2007

":" Walking Shadows, Clan Destine Press, 2012

Susan Hill, The Woman In Black, Mandarin 1992 (1983)

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A Florentine Dream
being an extract from a travel diary

The next morning, we left Rome at the crack of, as usual. But then, I think I must have fallen asleep on the coach, because what I remember is so bizarre, it could only have been a dream.

In this dream, I was running down a corridor made entirely of white marble tombstones. There was no way to avoid stepping on these polished eulogies, even those busts of the owners lined the walls three deep. I ran and ran through a burnished light and hushed stillness, until the slabs beneath me began to change. They grew older, some cracked and weathered, but gained coats of arms and geometric borders. As the dates receded, I realised I was in a lofty church, staring at the tomb of Michelangelo.

"They've made me a saint," the marble bust spoke bitterly. "The saint of nudes!"

"You think that's bad?" returned an effigy of Galileo. "They put my finger, my telescope finger, in a glass case! A reliquary, like it's supposed to heal the ague!"

"The people love when they please," observed a medallion of Machiavelli, "And when they don't, they string you up from the rafters."

"It certainly wasn't our own people who stuck us in these shrines." Michelangelo gazed furiously at all the trappings of the Baroque. "All this scroll work, trimmings like stone is meant to be lace - and yet, how much it weighs!"

It was then I noticed that, behind these memorials which indeed climbed halfway up the walls, a battle was taking place. Flat, angular figures with halos and staring eyes were clawing through the whitewash, wherever a space was left between the marble and acres of darkly glowing canvas. Across these canvases writhed the shapes of vastly unattractive monks, crawling towards Heaven in masochistic bliss. The colours of the older figures were starting to emerge, glorious cinnabar, cobalt, viridian and sienna. Saint after saint seized the instruments of their martyrdom in pierced hands; Virgin after virgin wielded a chubby infant. The Magdalene lashed out with tendrils of her self-grown hair shirt. But the monks used their chiaro scuro and distortions to great advantage. It seemed my gaze became a paint scraper, and where I directed it the baroque encrustations fell away. Then one of the monks shouted, "A medievalist! Into the Armillary Sphere with her!"

All at once, I was splayed and spinning inside a giant globe formed of countless rotating radii, some gilded, some ratcheted mahogany; others inlaid with the signs of the planets and zodiac. All were rotating about the earth, upon which stable point I was forced to run like a bear balancing on a ball at a circus. I feared that at any moment two of the orbits would intersect and I would be crushed: a comet would do it. I cried out to Galileo for help, but the saint of science only gestured, quite rudely, with his mummified finger, and the entire sphere leapt from its lion-footed moorings and rolled thunderously along long, stone corridors and down tower steps, before bursting out into the daylight. Down further steps I rolled, past traditional saints whose features were all melting in the heat. The entire massive church I had exited was formed entirely of gelati, delicately shaded rose and pistachio, with marbled milk chocolate and vanilla wafers. None of which I could eat.

I rolled on down the cobbled street, ringing bells at intervals which even despite the greater distance travelled. The buildings on either side of me were all solid gold, impervious to the surrounding water, and I realised I was crossing the Ponte Vecchio. On and on I spun, until with a rending crash, I smashed through the doors of the Palazzo Pitti and was flung from my Ptolemic prison into the Boboli gardens. The reason was immediately clear, as I gazed on the white statues amongst the greenery, the pink granite of the obelisk. In the presence of so many Greek and Egyptian gods, no mechanistic cosmology could possibly hold sway. I offered thanks to Horus, as the obelisk crawled slowly across the gravel on the backs of four, bronze turtles.

"You should have bought a new hat." I spun round at the familiar voice and saw David - my David, though just a white and finely-chiselled as the other, poised in an avenue of dark cypress.

"You should wear sunscreen," I replied. I reached for the tube I usually carried in my bag, but I was so dizzy, I no longer knew where to find it or anything else. Even walking up stairs seemed an impossible challenge, for the stairs folded into each other in an endless loop and we were simply passing round and round through the same marble decked groves and chambers, only now apparently walking on the ceiling or underside of the same path.

"How about we just go back to the hotel?" David suggested.

"I think my feet have fallen off," I replied. "Let's take a flying machine from the Belvedere."

He shook his giant, curly head. "You never did understand physics."

At this I awoke. The coach was sixty kilometres out of Lucerne.

LonCon 3

A Worldcon, they say, is a microcosm of life ("they," in this case, being my good friend Iain.) Over the course of time, your memories collapse into each other, but you are nonetheless certain, that if you knew then what you know now, you would have done things differently. You would have followed your passions, been more adventurous, and not spent so much time queuing. Definitely not spent so much time queuing.

It must be said, the queue for registration, when David and myself stumbled onto the end nearest the light rail station on Thursday afternoon, was one of the best managed and generally genial I have ever experienced. I put this down to the fact that no one wanted to fall down the stairs, and you could spend the time gawking at other people's outfits and reading their T-shirts, before these all switched to what was available in the Dealer's Room.

It was when queues started forming for panels, in the carpeted desert between the Capital Suites, that it began to sink in what "biggest Worldcon on record" actually meant. The venue, London's Excel centre, was huge. Seriously, there was another Light Rail station at the other end. To reach the rooms set aside for writing workshops and advice sessions, I had to cross a space like an aircraft hanger, in which my footsteps echoed alarmingly for a good three minutes. CS 7 - 12 would have held the central quadrangle of my high school. But when the first real showstopper took place - I believe it was a discussion between George R. R. Martin and Connie Willis, moderated by Paul Cornell - the queue rapidly assumed alarming proportions. Shortly thereafter, fire marshalls began descending on panels and ordering anyone without a chair to leave. Thus, David missed out on "What's New In Maths?" and I was ejected from "Make My Book Y.A." The both of us, along with our good friends Rob and Cat, had to leave the Sherlock Holmes panel and ended up sitting in on another of Kim Stanley Robinson's. The man is a truly excellent speaker, but together with the reading and the lecture on pacing in the novel (taking in Virginia Woolfe and Olaf Stapleton), it was like we were stalking him.

The queue for processing successful bids in the Art Show auction was just brutal, and all I was carrying was a (very attractive) necklace (by Clare Boothby). Those who had taken the opportunity to snare an original of Autun Purser's wonderful vintage-style travel posters, for places such as Barsoom, Arrakis and the Plateau of Leng, really suffered. But, you know, for art.

The readings from Robinson and Mike Carey, the tourney conducted by the Society of Creative Anachronism and a glorious stint in the live sketching circle leavened panels on "Sexuality in Science Fiction and Fantasy", "Better Worldbuilding Through Poetry", the obligatory what's new in vampirism, and "How To Find An Agent" (the advice, attend kaffeklatches, came a little late.) I met my academic idol Dr. Farah Mendlesohn, fellow Stone Skin author Steve Dempsey, a giant stick insect, Batman, Thor, Link, Kaonashi from Spirited Away, the Sixth Doctor circa 1950's female (the tailoring in that dress! And how did she ever match the materials?), the Tardis circa 18th Century female (best I've ever seen, especially the POLICE BOX fan), Drizzt Do'Urden (still male, but such make-up!), and a lady with long, reddish-blonde hair in excellent Low Medieval (green linen dress and brown cape). Her face and breast had been raked with claws. When I asked her who she was, she asked if I was up to date with A Song of Ice and Fire. When I confessed I was not, she answered, "In that case, I'm a spoiler."

Other bon mots:

"It's our Genre and we're stuck with it." - James Patrick Kelly.

"Nobody's writing Science Fiction about problems we don't have yet." - Jennifer Stevenson.

"Part the Red Sea, indeed: it's an easy thing to do in Australia." - Ben Peek.

"If you can't believe in my horses, you will never believe in my dragons." - Robin Hobb.

"If it scares you, put fangs on it." - Kim Newman.

"You don't need an imagination to write about London. You just go ahead and mine it." - Suzanne McLeod.

One of the reasons David and I added the con to our already ambitious European itinerary was the realisation that we would be among friends. Outside of queues, I think that I spent the most time saying hello to fellow Australians. I actually picked up books from the Ticonderoga and Twelfth Planet stalls that I hadn't already purchased because I hadn't gone to the Natcon. Because I was coming here. That makes sense, doesn't it? The table at the GUFF auction groaned under the weight of diurse flavoured Tim Tams and more small press - this year's delegate, Gillian Pollack, had been dilligent. Ben Peek's schedule was pretty full, due to the presence of his new novel, The Godless, in all good bookstores, but we spent some quality time curmudgeoning in corners, and all I had to do to find Llyn was stand still for long enough gazing at a piece of jewellery or a small bronzework - we have notably similar tastes. Except in brooches.

Granted a tardis that wasn't made of fabric or plywood (finding a suitable opponent in the dalek constructed of coconut shells and wicker - the so-called "tiki dalek" on display in the dealers room), or just a better state of mind going in, I would have indeed done things differently. Why did I keep trying to get into panels, when I could have signed up for workshops and kaffeklatches? I know why I didn't bring any costumes, and that wouldn't change (although I'm sure wandering around Prague as an Edwardian Lady would be amusing): I would like to do a con is costume one of these days. But, as Iain said, that's life. You are aware of only a portion of the things going on around you, and can experience only a fraction of that. Then, before you know it, it's time to catch the train to Paris.

How on earth did I acculmulate all these shillings and pence? What do I do with them, and this Oyster card thingy?

Pictures: The Masked Bards Ball
A wonderful evening was had by all. My especial thanks to Danny Gardner, and to Maree, who put on a stellar performance as Mignon in "The Cat's Cortege".

Photos taken by Danny Lovecraft. Used by permission.

Appearance: The Masked Bards Ball
Here is what is happening at Live Poets @ Don Bank for Wednesday, July 23rd.

On a night billed as 'An Evening of Speculation', a 'Masked Bards Ball', KYLA LEE WARD  and DAVID REITER will feature in individual guest spots. Kyla Lee Ward will perform material from her book: 'Land of Bad Dreams' and new work. David Reiter will present his ground-breaking memoir book/ebook 'My Planets'. There will also be the Sydney launch of an anthology of Australian speculative poetry 'Stars Like Sand' which includes the work of many of Australia's leading poets such as  Les Murray, Peter Goldsworthy, Judith Beveridge and many more.

And what about the 'Masked Bards Ball' bit of the evening you ask? There is going to be music and dancing in the courtyard over supper.
Patrons will be invited to don a mask of their choosing or use one provided. Readers in the open section will be asked to reveal themselves through their mask during their presentation.

Don Bank Cottage, at 6 Napier St, North Sydney, is the oldest wooden house in this area. Built in the first half of the 19th century, it was acquired by North Sydney Council in 1979 and converted into a local history museum. It is a highly atmospheric venue, and I will taking full advantage of the fact. For bookings, please contact the Convenor, Danny Gardner, on 9896 6956.

Bust the Budget in Sydney

I don't do protest marches, as a general rule. This decision is based on a mistrust of crowd mechanics and a few personal neuroses. But this, you see, was no ordinary march. This was a protest for people who don't usually protest - who have to be really, really angry before they will front up with a placard. Oh, the usual suspects were all there today in Cathedral Close, offering copies of Green Left Weekly and invitations to join the new socialist movement. Flags with the Green logo sprouted like forest regrowth - these are all good people and today couldn't have happened without them, although the official organizers were Unions NSW. But my gaze was drawn irresistibly to a sagging, sickly man, who clearly didn't ventured out often, whose black Labrador accompanied him through the crowd. To a smartly dressed lady with the power haircut, negotiating the press in her motorized wheelchair. To a young man with exquisite hair in a suit and tie, glancing nervously at the burlies carrying flags for the Maritime Union of Australia. To the young woman pushing a pram, with a tiny, tiny flag reading "NSW Nurses Association" stuck into her hair. There was an especially strong contingent of venerable folks: perhaps unsurprisingly given the proposed cuts to the pension, combined with the push to raise the age of retirement. "GREY POWER CAN DEFEAT ABBOT" read their signs, and "DON'T SLUG THE PENSIONERS - THEY HAVE PAID". All standing in the Winter sunlight, between the spires of St Andrews and the equally glorious sandstone of the Sydney Town Hall, bopping along to the Hoodoo Gurus, "The Right Time".

"Can everyone in front the steps please lower their placards!" The greying man in the suit waved. "So the cameras can see the speakers!"

Turned out he was our Master of Ceremonies: Mark Lennon, secretary of Unions NSW. He was accompanied onto the sandstone balcony (that while being part of the Town Hall is not inside the Town Hall) by a cheery woman in a crimson cardigan. This was Rebecca, who would be signing the speeches for the deaf. And could that woman sign! Her hands underscored every word like a master calligrapher. Her "Bust the Budget" looked positively violent!

Mark introduced us to Aunty Shirley from the Redfern Embassy. We might have been welcome to her country, but some people certainly aren't. "Bust Tony Abbot! We are the custodians of this land, not the lunatics who have been running the asylum for the last 200 years! Send him back to his country of origin!" The cheers echoed from spire to clock tower.

Mark reciprocated with the acknowledgment of the Cadigal:  "the people who did settle this land, no matter what they say!" (For those who have been staying away from the news in order to preserve their sanity, this refers to our Prime Minister's description of Australia as unsettled before 1788, delivered during his keynote address at The Australian-Melbourne Institute conference on 3 July 2014). He thanked the police, the nurses and firemen who were enabling today's protest, which was necessary, he said, because the budget is deliberately unfair. "This is about a change of agenda for this nation," and a message to the new Senators  who will be taking their seats for the first time this week.

The next speaker was Kerry Rogers of the NSW Nurse's Association. She stated that the cuts the budget proposes to public health funding, and the attack on our universal health care system, "One of the best in the world!", are unconscionable and unnecessary. The funding crisis mooted by the government is of ideological manufacture: "The only crisis facing Australia is the moral and ethical bankruptcy of this Liberal government!"

Lyn Maciver, of the Fair Go For Pensioners coalition, repeated this point, with reference to the Nobel-prize winning economist Joseph Stiglitz and his comments that the government's plan to deregulate universities is "a crime" and the move for co-payments for medical services "absurd" (in an interview with the Sydney Morning Herald, 3 July 2014).  But the matter of her speech was more personal. She told of how she became a pensioner in 2007, when her husband suffered a severe stroke at the age of 54. His care demanded that she leave paid employment. She never anticipated this. And such reversals, she emphasized, can happen to anyone at any time. She was here speaking, she said, for those who cannot speak for themselves. "Enough is enough, Tony." It was at this point I realized that the frantic whirring I kept hearing was a very small, white-haired lady standing behind me, and swinging a football rattle for all she was worth.

Before introducing the next speaker, Mark announced: "We have filled Town Hall Square. Congratulations!" "BUST THE BUDGET! BUST THE BUDGET!"

Jane Tyrrell was previously president of the National Union of Students, and suggested there was an upside to all this. "This budget has breathed fire into the hearts of students across Australia!" The chanting surged and only Rebecca's eloquent gestures managed to reduce the volume to the point where Jane could continue. Education is not for profit and nor should it ever be. Certain people now in power, who benefited from free tertiary education during the 1980s, should remember this. Cutting funding, increasing student debt and the deregulation of universities will lead us inexorably to a two-tiered American-style education system, that entrenches disadvantage. "Students see this budget, and have one important thing to say. YOU SHALL NOT PASS!"

Next, Maree O'Halloran  of the Welfare Rights Legal Centre mounted the  balcony, noting that the Cadigal "were still fighting, and never ceded their land." She also referenced Stiglitz, and her description of why people use their service broadened Lyn's tale to the young people who have never held a job, those made redundant in their middle-age, and the chronically ill. These people, she said, want and need jobs and training, but this government is planning for destitution. Instead of implementing a jobs policy, the budget sets aside $240 million for "emergency relief" - which she translated as food parcels. The government know what the result of their policies will be.

Finally, Mark introduced  the secretary of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, Dave Oliver, who picked up on Jane's point. "This budget is about the Americanisation of our society. We are out in here in the streets, defending the Australian way of life."

And in the streets we were. Marching right down the middle of George Street, the traffic held back by obliging police. In the canyon formed by the Queen Victoria Building and mirrored skyscrapers on the other, the chants rolled back and forth along the massive line - from the top, already around the corner in Market Street, to the bottom still massed in Cathedral Close. Disparate voices picked them up and passed them along like waves. HEY! HEY! HO! HO! TONY ABBOT HAS TO GO! "NO CUTS, NO FEES, NO CORPORATE UNIVERSITIES!" "HANDS OFF MEDICARE!" But always returning to BUST THE BUDGET! BUST THE BUDGET! None of the Sunday shoppers or tourists lining the sidewalks could have been in any doubt of the reason we were marching. Some looked uneasy, some looked away. Some simply began filming us. We turned up Castlereagh, and then back down Park to complete the circuit. The rally was over, but as Mark reminded us, it was just the beginning. Whatever the Senate do or fail to do, the work will continue.

In the Queen Victoria Building, orange placards lined the wrought iron balconies of the second level, as those who had borne them ordered tea, or queued at the rest room. White-haired ladies chatted happily with exquisitely groomed young men. Sleek young women with Gucchi bags comforted grumpy children, while inspecting the leaflets they had picked up. As said, these aren't the kind of people who usually protest. But they're doing so now.

New Work: "Necromancy"
The first issue of Spectral Realms, the new dark poetry journal edited by S. T. Joshi, is now available. It contains a brand new work of mine, "Necromancy", as well as intriguing titles from the like of Leigh Blackmore, Margi Curtis, Danny Lovecraft, ankh_hpl, Marge Simons and many, many more. Some of whom are dead. I am delighted to participate in such an exhumation, which the esteemed editor characterises as follows:

"The last few decades have seen a remarkable efflorescence of weird poetry, to such a degree that we can authentically state that a renaissance of the genre is underway. Hippocampus Press has always been committed to this most rarefied mode of expression, and now Spectral Realms, published in Summer and Winter, leads the way."

"Necromancy" can be considered a monologue, in a similar vein to "The Torturer's Confession". Obsession twines here, as roses, and the lamps only darken the shades of the past. But where the Torturer played with ambiguity, as with his subject, it is the Necromancer's modis operandi. She has her reasons.

"Did you think to escape me by this ploy?

To escape me? Did you think you could hide

so I would not in season find you out?

And dig yourself so deep into this grave

that I could not exhume you, should I choose?

I must call this a poor and common plot

for such as you..."

Spectral Realms #1 may be purchased from Hippocampus Press.

Upcoming Work: A Twenty-First Century Bestiary

A 21st Century Bestiary

Few tomes are as magical as bestiaries, those encyclopedias of real animals, mythological creatures, and everything in between. From Aristotle to Pliny the Elder, from Saint Isidore of Seville to Anne Walshe, from Jorge Luis Borges to Gary Gygax, from ancient China’s The Classic of Mountains and Seas to the forthcoming 13th Age Bestiary, the greatest minds have produced monstrous taxonomies as timeless as they are fabulous. Now, as illuminated manuscripts have given way to ebooks, the time has come for a new addition to this worthy canon: A 21st Century Bestiary, from Stone Skin Press.

Author and editor Heather Wood has taken on the fearless task of compiling this illustrated volume, a rare literary chimera in the same genus as our previous The Lion and the Aardvark. Unlike any previously discovered bestiary, this collection will include both classic beasts that have evolved to cope in the modern world and the heretofore undiscovered creatures that thrive in the 21st century. Some entries are warmly evocative of the bestiaries of yore, while others are styled as decidedly modern short stories. This lexicon displays a range of tones from the amusing to the horrific, from the thoughtful to the diverting.

We’re keeping most of the contributors a secret for now, but since the manticore is out of the bag we can let a few names slips: Ed Greenwood, Emily Care Boss, Julia Bond Ellingboe, Dave Gross, Kyla Ward,  Robin D. Laws, Nancy Kilpatrick, Kenneth Hite, and John Tynes are but a few of the noted literary naturalists and beast-watchers who are taking part. A 21st Century Bestiary is sure to delight any reader who appreciates the marvelous and the unique. Look for it in the wild later this year…

Letter: Meaning vs Mining
It appears I had a letter in the Sydney Morning Herald on Monday, 26th May 2014. I reproduce the text below:

Meaning v mining

In the wake of the Sydney Writers Festival, I find myself wondering what the difference is between the Australian mining industry and the Australian meaning industry, otherwise known as the arts? Both undertake the excavation of raw materials from deep below the surface. It is difficult and sometimes dangerous work, requiring highly trained technicians with specific skills. These materials are then refined, making them useful to our society. The infrastructure and products of both these industries affect every individual in this country, and those we export to, every day of their lives.

The difference appears to be that the current Australian government is willing to protect and support one through the challenges of globalisation and new technologies, but not the other. Is this because creativity is a renewable resource?

Kyla Lee Ward  Sutherland

Work In Progress: I See The Castle
I find myself posting this update in an effort to rekindle my enthusiasm, or possibly just to try and convince myself that I am getting somewhere.

I have as of this grey and dreary afternoon completed Act II of my current novel, I See The Castle. That is, Chapter Twenty, because this is a young adult novel and designed to come in at around 70,000 words. So far, I'm on track, maybe a bit over. It's taken me a lot longer to get this far than I anticipated, but what else is new?

Why I'm making such heavy weather of this, is presumably to do with the fact that it's a rewrite. A comprehensive and total reworking of a manuscript that spent nine months at Penguin Australia in the mid noughties before being rejected. This time, I know which story I'm actually telling. This time, the book will end properly. This time, there won't be a plot hole you could stage a cavalry charge through. But the fact remains: I have trod this path before. To make matters worse, it's based upon my experiences in high school. This makes it a very dark urban fantasy with philosophical pretensions, and, oh yes: sixteen year olds.

I didn't enjoy being a teenager: I don't enjoy writing about it. Sixteen year olds have a very limited scope of action. Contrary to what appears to be the current literary vogue, I don't believe that being young grants you an appreciation of what's wrong with the world and how it can be fixed, any purity of purpose or emotion, nor any especial facility with the martial arts. A person with any real talent at that age is confused, miserable and gratuitous. All that granting them power is going to achieve, is to make the damage a bit more... obvious, say.

"And she couldn't hear herself any more for the scream was back, the dreadful, clotted scream. And the barred door next to hers were clanging, as something flung itself against it and the scream went on and on, like something squeezed through, and even though she'd shrunk away from the door, she glimpsed motion.

A hand. Fingers scraping into her field of vision, clawing at the stone, and in the shadows it was completely white and the nails danced like little specs of firelight. Orange nails sunk deep in the dead skin, and every centimeter was puckered."

Forget destroying the Dark Lord. I suspect that the most that can be asked of any sixteen year old is that they wake up enough to take responsibility for their own mess. Actually, I suspect that's the most that can be asked of anyone; but then, it is an especially grey and dreary afternoon. And making everyone see your personal enemies as the disgusting monsters they really are would be fun. Oh yes, it would.

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